Eating clean benefits your health at any age, but good nutrition is especially important after age 40 — you need healthy foods to get an early start on fighting diseases that will get more common as you age, including heart disease and osteoporosis. Eating the right foods also keeps you feeling energized and looking young and refreshed — perfect for aging gracefully.
Refined carbs digest fast, so they create rapid blood sugar spikes (responsible for that infamous “sugar high”) followed by a subsequent crash, which leaves you hungry and tired. Refined carbs, like white rice, can disrupt your blood sugar levels — especially after age 40. (
While refined carbs aren’t great at any age, they’re especially bad after age 40. That’s because you naturally lose muscle mass as you age. And, since muscle tissue helps control your blood sugar levels, less muscle means you’re more likely to experience big blood sugar fluctuations after a meal.
2. Fatty Dairy
Dairy actually boosts your health as you age. It’s a fantastic source of calcium, which keeps your bones healthy and strong, and offers protein to nourish your muscles. Where dairy can hurt you after age 40, though, is in its fat content. The saturated fat in dairy increases harmful blood cholesterol levels, which can contribute to heart disease, and also contributes to chronic inflammation, which triggers cellular aging. Some fatty forms of dairy like ice cream or full-fat yogurt also contain sugar, which can make you gain weight.
3. Diet Soda
It’s incredibly acidic, which means sipping soda throughout the day can erode your tooth enamel and increase your risk of cavities. As a result, diet soda can also make your pearly whites less bright. Even though they’re low in calories, drinking diet soda is still not a good idea.
As you age, your teeth naturally accumulate more dentin — a yellow-tinted layer just underneath your enamel, which can make your teeth appear more yellow. Since acidic drinks thin your enamel, that dentin becomes more visible, so you’ll get yellower smile that might not respond to at-home whitening treatments.
4. Full-Sodium Soups
One nutrient you need to avoid after age 40? Sodium. Like phosphorus, salt disrupts your calcium balance, removing calcium from your bone tissue, which may increase your risk of osteoporosis (no, thank you!). It boosts your blood pressure, which makes it a no-go if you’re trying to follow a heart-healthy diet. Sodium can even make you look tired — it triggers bloating, which can exaggerate puffy eyes — and dehydrates your skin to make you look older. Definitely not ideal!
If you’ve been reaching for margarine as a healthy alternative to butter, it’s time to reconsider. Margarine is made from plant-based fats that would normally be liquid at room temperature, and it goes through a chemical process called hydrogenation to make it solid. That same process generates trans fats — the worst type of fat you can eat.
The trans fats in margarine contribute to heart disease and may accelerate aging. Trans fats boost your unhealthy cholesterol levels more than even saturated fats, and any trans fats in your diet significantly up your risk of developing heart disease. They also trigger inflammation, which not only increases the visible signs of aging, but also contributes to cancer and heart disease. And trans fats signal for fat to migrate to your midsection from other parts of your body, which can give you a “beer belly” as you age.
6. Processed Meats
If you’re still eating processed meats — like sausages, pepperoni, bacon and turkey bacon — after age 40, it’s time to start phasing them out. Not only do these meats contain staggering amounts of sodium, they’re high in artery-clogging saturated fats and might even contain trans fats. Cured meats may also contain nitrates, which dehydrate your skin to increase the visible signs of aging and make you look tired. And while processed meats can be a good source of protein, those pro-aging ingredients more than outweigh any potential benefits.